Dog flu cases confirmed in La.; vaccines available

Dr. Nancy Welborn (Source: WAFB)
Dr. Nancy Welborn (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Canine influenza, more commonly known as the dog flu, has been rearing its head around the country in places such as Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. "Canine Influenza is a viral respiratory infection that's contagious between dogs," explains Dr. Nancy Welborn with the Louisiana State University Veterinary School.

Much like the human version of the flu, it travels and most recently it was found here in the Pelican State. "Two confirmed cases, both in Monroe," said Welborn.

Dr. Welborn says there are two strands of canine influenza; H3N2 and H3N8. The strand that has most recently affected dogs in the state is H3N2.

Dr. Welborn says those dogs infected were possibly exposed at a dog show in Georgia. She also says the typical backyard dog would probably never be exposed. It's dogs with social lifestyles that are most at risk. "So show dogs, working dogs, potential dogs going to dog parks. So their lifestyle has to be that they're social dogs, they're out and interacting with a lot of different populations of dogs," said Welborn.

Welborn says dogs infected do not typically require antibiotics or hospitalization, just supportive care. The dogs infected in Monroe are at home receiving care, says Welborn.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, some symptoms pet owners should look for include a mild cough and lack of appetite. A dog with a severe case of the virus might exhibit symptoms of pneumonia.

We asked Dr. Welborn how could dogs catch the virus. "Contact. It's just like us getting the flu. If someone sneezes on you, you pick it up. The same thing with dogs. Contact, so nose to nose and dogs, that's how they check each other out," said Welborn.

Welborn says before jumping the gun and predetermining care for you pet, the best thing for frequent dog park visitors like Michael Maggio, is to tell their veterinarian their pet's lifestyle and figure out the right care or plan for prevention. "If it's something I need to be concerned about, I'll definitely look into doing that," said Maggio.

"What's the dog's job? What's the dog's lifestyle? And if the dog does have the history of going to the dog park a lot, going to shows, traveling the interstate, I think would be the biggest reason for me to vaccinate the dog. It is always good to be protective," said Welborn.

Welborn says the canine influenza vaccine is available now and can be given to dogs as young as 7 weeks old. We're also told the infection cannot be passed to animals other than dogs.

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